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Who We Are

    Helene and Sheila

    Sheila and Helene look forward to their collaboration in the cohousing project as a return to idealisms of an earlier moment and in anticipation of renewal in the future. For many years, Helene taught literature at UCSC, where she was also a Dean and Provost. She is a writer in several genres and a community organizer. Sheila is a psychologist and psychoanalyst who is now practicing in Santa Cruz after living and working in Los Angeles for thirty years. She practiced and published in community psychology and psychosocial oncology and is now applying her skills and training to community and non-profit efforts. Together, they teach a writing workshop for local veterans. They enjoy reading, seeing films, socializing with friends-- and the company of their three grandchildren.

    Diane and Dick

    We are looking forward to downsizing, leaving a lighter footprint on our beloved earth, and sharing meals, conversations and events with a fantastic group of Walnut Commoners, our intentional community. We and our three children became permanent residents on our property in the Aptos foothills in 1974. We are failed apple farmers, successful hosts of 16 weddings (no divorces), and now Windy Oaks Estate Winery has a gold medal producing pinot vineyard on our acreage. We have been blessed by the land and the opportunities it has presented. Living in Santa Cruz has also made available life altering experiences in the political arena, social and environmental action and the cultural scene. Included are the Grand Jury (Diane), Democratic Central Committee (Dick), creating (Diane) and chairs of social action at Temple Beth El, board members of Capacitar (local non-profit teaching stress-reducing techniques world-wide), Habitat For Humanity builds and other projects in Latin America with local non-profit IF (Integrities Foundation), board members and president (Dick) of the Cabrillo Festival for Contemporary Music, board president (Dick) of Camphill Properties (nurturing residential communities for adults with developmental disabilities), and pro bono attorney services (Dick) for Capacitar, Camphill Communities California, and Ecology Action. We are celebrating 60 years of marriage this summer, having met as students at Stanford University. And in closing, we are the proud grandparents of six wonderful grandchildren, the two eldest now attending university (UC Berkeley and Stanford).


    I am excited to join Walnut Commons to create a greater sense of community in Santa Cruz. I began my life in South Korea but moved to California at the age of 13. I graduated from UC Berkeley in the 1970’s with a Masters in Social Welfare. After a rewarding career in the Bay Area, I retired and moved to Santa Cruz to be closer to my two children and three grandchildren. I enjoy the slower pace of life, fresh air, and beautiful surroundings. My hobbies include hiking, good food and travel. Most recently, my adventures have taken me to Tanzania, China, Peru, and across the US on the back of a motorcycle. I look forward to integrating into a group of active and engaged people in vibrant, downtown Santa Cruz.


    I grew up near Los Angeles and I have degrees from Caltech and UC San Diego. My past careers include teaching, real estate (a mistake), and services for textbook publishers, and currently I run a small website hosting service. I enjoy music and animals, and I am passionate about human rights and environmental issues. I have always loved the progressive vibe of Santa Cruz and I have been interested in cohousing for years, so Walnut Commons is a great find for me. I was living in Redwood City when I joined Walnut Commons in January 2013, and I moved near Santa Cruz in May 2013.


    I moved from Ossining, NY in May, 2015 following my retirement as a home care nurse in Westchester County. My plan had always been to live near one of my 3 children and I settled on Santa Cruz because it is a small walkable community with beautiful weather and many cultural advantages and it is close to my younger daughter and her family. My other 2 children and their families are in Bozeman, Mt. and Hamburg, Germany.

    I have had a deep commitment to the environment since becoming a mother 40 years ago and have recently been involved in groups opposing fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline. I also participated in the Climate March in NYC. I believe climate change is the most important issue facing humanity and many species on earth. Cohousing at Walnut Commons enables me to act on my desire to live more sustainably. My other interests include gardening, cooking, knitting, hiking and reading. I have also become involved with food outreach for the homeless since coming to Santa Cruz.

    Shirley, Francis and Carol

    We (Carol and Francis) have lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains for the past 28 years. We met while doing volunteer work with people of the Navajo Nation. We both lived in different intentional communities and have sought to live in community again at the wonderful community of Walnut Commons. Francis was born in Japan and immigrated to the US when he was 13 years old. Tennis and sailing are two of his hobbies in his spare time. He presently works as a mechanical engineer. Carol was born in southern California and has worked in the school systems in California, Arizona, and North Carolina as a pediatric physical therapist. Together we have walked the Camino de Santiago from Portugal to Spain. We volunteer with an organization in Ecuador that helps working children and families break the cycle of poverty. We have two grown boys in their twenties.

    Shirley has lived in California all her life. Most of her time was spent in Southern California where she lived in Bakersfield, Santa Monica, and the Antelope Valley. Before coming to Santa Cruz in December 2014, she lived for over 20 years in the Tehachapi Mountains near her daughter Nancy. Now, she shares in community living with her younger daughter Carol and her son-in- law Francis. Shirley worked as a teacher’s aid with the mentally disabled and as a library assistant. She has had many hobbies including quilting, beading, card-making, and soap-making. Currently, she enjoys knitting and breezing around Santa Cruz on her mobility scooter.


    I am an upbeat people person who loves to live life to its fullest. I was born and raised in New York. I graduated in Anthropology from Vassar College, Class of ’81. I have lived abroad in Greece, Somalia and New Zealand and traveled extensively. I have three fabulous college age kids who were born and raised in La Selva Beach on an organic farm. For the last 14 years I have worked in schools as an administrative assistant. Currently I am working for local non-profit, Life Lab, where we cultivate in children a life long love of learning, healthy food and nature through garden-based education. I also volunteer for the Red Cross, Tandy Beal & Co., State Parks and the Santa Cruz Land Trust. I take great pleasure in walking long distances, singing in a choir, foraging, reading, gardening, cooking meals and baking bread and when time and money allow - traveling. I believe strongly in the value of living and working in communities where we care for and enjoy one another.

    Barbara and Will

    We were married in the late 1960s while serving with the Peace Corps as English teachers in Thailand. This experience introduced us to new cultural and social ways of seeing the world. After returning to the United States to further our own educations (Will with a M.A. in Linguistics and Barbara with a Teaching Credential), we went overseas again to teach and live on Saipan, an island in the Pacific Ocean. After the birth of our first child, we decided that we wanted to raise our children closer to our families so we came back to California and settled in Santa Cruz County. Will’s professional career has included being a teacher, real estate broker, and a computer programmer while Barbara’s has been in education as a Montessori teacher, owner of a small Montessori preschool, and as a first grade teacher in Watsonville. Now as retirees with two grown sons, we enjoy being grandparents and having the time to engage in personally meaningful activities.

    Gail O

    Retired Human Resources Director for two California cities; Co-Director, Healthcare For All Santa Cruz County; Trustee Watsonville Library Board; District Rep on Santa Cruz County Senior Commission; volunteer for Conflict Resolution Center; past president & current member Friday Shakespeare Club of Santa Cruz; reader, gardener, walker, movie buff.


    I’m originally from the Chicago area but have lived in Northern California for four decades. Currently I live in a magnificent windowed home overlooking the Pacific Ocean in La Selva Beach south of Santa Cruz, but I’m looking to downsize and Walnut Commons’ intentional community seems just the right thing. My career was in sales and marketing. I’m retired now, a mother of 4, grandmother of 6, who loves to spend time and energy with my family. By family I include my 9-year-old dog Sunshine. I love cooking, entertaining, reading, sewing, knitting and attending my UCC church.

    Paul and Cecile

    Paul and Cecile Andrews are a bichon-loving writer couple from Seattle who after years of searching have found their dream cohousing community in Walnut Commons. Creator of simplicity circles and author of four books, including her most recent, Living Room Revolution, Cecile believes that the key to happiness and the common good is people coming together to talk, think and take action. She is involved in the Transition, Slow Life and Happiness movements. As a community educator she gives workshops and leads groups, helping people discover their particular paths of social engagement. She has a doctorate in education from Stanford. Described as a sheep dog in a former life, Cecile considers cohousing “the perfect expression of community in our lives.” A former technology journalist, Paul is author or contributor to numerous books, including the biography of Bill Gates, and is an avid cyclist who runs the BikeIntelligencer.com blog. Their current owner is Millie, a bichon frise who advocates co-petting. More at their Web sites, CecileAndrews.com and PaulAndrews.com.


    I am delighted to be here and love my new place. I moved here from Campbell, am very interested in the cohousing concept, and love being in Santa Cruz. I retired four years ago from teaching elementary school (fifth grade), have taught computers to adults, owned a crafts store (stained glass) and worked as an MSW social worker. I am widowed (for 10 years, after 40 years together) and like staying active.

    I have a small non-profit, and will continue with its mission of providing food for the homeless. Right now we make muffins every Sunday, and distribute them in downtown San Jose ( www.meetup.com/Wishbayarea) as part of a larger weekly event. I love doing crafts (mostly card-making and sewing with felt), and like to be in at least one or two book clubs. In Campbell, I was active in the Resist Trump effort, as part of Indivisible, and look forward to connecting up with the Santa Cruz program. I enjoy drawing with pencil, and have taken a couple of classes. I was part of the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program in San Jose, and am continuing with the family I was assigned to there. Oh yes and I love to cook!

    Gail G

    I grew up in Sacramento and spent many hours visiting my grandparents who lived in Santa Cruz in the 1950’s. I retired from 34 years of community college history teaching a few years ago and have been rattling around in my big, beach house in Rio Del Mar where I’ve lived for twenty years. It’s a wonderful place to live and entertain, but with neither husband nor children to share it, I think a smaller place with community friends would be an ideal environment for the next stage of my life.

    I have written two books for Al-Anon, some articles and stories and have a half done memoir in the proverbial “drawer”. While at American River College in Sacramento, I created the first courses in women’s history in the 70’s. Of course if it was to be done, I had to do it as the social science faculty consisted of 34 guys and me.

    Currently I’m enjoying a lot of grandbaby sitting as I have 3 grands under 7 in the area and hopes for one more. I’m very blessed that my two children, Monica and Kevin live within about 30 minutes drive, though in opposite directions. Among the many things I love are ballroom dancing, travel (especially outside the country), life long learners, reading, walking, and meditating, having written (not the actual sitting down and doing it) and just about anything with fur or feathers. I have an adorable wave-surfing, bird-chasing mutt, Mari, who will be coming with me on this new adventure.